Contingencies: BFA Student Exhibition

April 18, 2013

by Joshua Kelly Published in The Tiger Newspaper

Featured Artists: Nick Baldwin, Jena Heaton, Sierra Kramer, Stephanie Post, Natalie Rainer

The second BFA show in the month of April will be Contingencies, and from the 15th through the 19th, photographs by Nick Baldwin and Jena Heaton, sculpture by Sierra Kramer, ceramic work by Stephanie Post, and prints by Natalie Rainer will be on display. The artists in this show work in a variety of media, but formally they all deal with processes that are subject to chance and a high rate of unpredictability, while at the same time each artist takes careful measures to ensure that their hand is evident in the final piece.

Nick Baldwin prides himself in being somewhat of an unorthodox photographer. His work for the show will feature a series of portraits, taken by iPhone, that have been run through various glitch-causing programs (which visually distort and corrupt the image). After altering the portraits randomly he takes them into photoshop to fine-tune the visual mutations, sometimes augmenting the damage to the original image and sometimes bringing back parts of the initial portrait. This gives each finished work a unique character; some end up referencing famous artworks from history while some portraits become so abstract the viewer is left wondering how what they see could have at one point been a portrait of anyone. Through this method of abstraction, Nick’s work provokes his viewers into asking questions like just how reliable is technology, and how much faith should we have in these electronic tools we rely so much on when they can often glitch and corrupt our data with no provocation at all?

Sierra Kramer’s instillations challenge the viewer’s perception of their surrounding world by transporting them to fanciful landscapes populated conspicuously with color and shape. Her sculptures, which seek to examine the relationship between a person and their individual memories of experiences and life stories, are inspired by an interest in perceptual psychology. Aesthetically her work ranges from illusory and mystic to effervescent; and much is still on display across the new Lee 3 Architecture Building. For Contingencies, Sierra will be reinstalling several of her pieces from Lee into the Lee Gallery as well as providing documentation of some of her previous work from the past year.

Natalie Rainer’s prints are a marriage of her unorthodox “throw-ink-on-plexiglass-and-electrocute-it” monoprinting method and uber-precise plexiglass etching technique producing works that are hypnotically transcendent and reminiscent of fantastical landscapes and nature scenes. Her intent with her work is to build a visual vocabulary to describe her personal mythology, adapting some imagery from established mythological traditions but primarily creating a personal codex as she goes along.

The ceramic busts of Stephanie Post are one-part planning, one-part semi-planned destruction, and one-part “hope this doesn’t fall apart when I put it in the fire.” The end product? Voluminous humanoid-like organic forms that appear to be preserved in a state of mid-decay. Referencing the pain and struggle of the growth that comes from the human experience, her work captivates the viewer by peaking their curiosity (her forms are very intricate and close inspection is required to fully appreciated their complexity) and invoking an emotion of compassion and concern for the weathered pieces.

Although formally her work does not resemble Nick’s, conceptually Jena Heaton’s photography asks a similar question: how much can I trust what I see in front of me? By arranging mirrors within various landscapes, usually during or right before dusk, Jena contrasts the naturally occurring lack of light within the landscape itself with human manipulated artificial light sources captured by both the mirrors placed in the landscape and by the camera as a result of the time-lapse photography process she employs to make her pieces. The resulting work is both whimsical and solemn. Upon first glance, many of her photographs appear to show the viewer a fairy-like being inhabiting these various spaces in nature, yet the careful positioning and framing of the mirrors which she has placed within these landscapes asks us to contemplate the reality and truthfulness of the image we see; where does our existence lie? Here on this (out)side of the frame, within the frame alongside the fanciful, or deeper still within the various mirrored worlds reflected back at us from within the image itself?